In Udine's center, handsome streets open every few blocks or so onto another stunning piazza and sometimes even cross little streams. The effect is like walking from one stage set to another. The heart of the city is the elegant Piazza della Libertà ★★, which bears the telltale marks of the Venetian presence in Udine: On one side is the Loggia del Lionello, the town hall, built in the mid-15th century in Venetian style with a pink-and-white-striped facade. Across the piazza is the Renaissance Porticcato di San Giovanni, with a long portico supported by slender columns and, rising above it, a Venice-inspired clock tower emblazoned with the Venetian lion and topped with two Moors who strike the hours.
The great Renaissance architect Palladio designed the Arco Bollani, located to one side of the clock tower. Pass through it and make the short climb through verdant gardens to the somber 16th-century Castello, which rises above the Piazza della Libertà on a hillock. Many Udinese come up here just to admire the view over the town and countryside, but you can also venture into the castle and visit the Musei Civici. While many of the galleries house an eclectic collection that includes coins, ancient pottery, and old photographs of Udine, the real treasures can be found in the Galleria d'Arte Antica. Here you'll get a taste of the work of Giambattista Tiepolo, who came to Udine from Venice in 1726, when he was 30 and already regarded as a master of a rococo style that was the last great burst of Italian painting. His Consilium in Arena is pure Tiepolo, a swirl of lush skies and plump putti. The museum (tel. 0432-271-591) is open Tuesday to Sunday 10:30am to 5pm and until 7pm from May to September; admission is 5€ and 3€ for under 18 and over 65, respectively.
Many visitors come to Udine just to enjoy the Tiepolos that grace many of its buildings. To follow in their footsteps, descend again to Piazza della Libertà and follow Via Veneto south for a block or so to Piazza Duomo. The Cathedral (daily 7am-noon and 4-8pm) dominates the square with its 14th-century Gothic facade, but the interior is theatrically baroque. The first, second, and fourth altars in the right nave are adorned with Tiepolo paintings; in the fourth chapel, his airy version of Christ's Ascension imparts lightness and a sense of exhilaration at leaving Earth (Tiepolo also did the frescoes here).
Tiepolo also frescoed the Oratorio della Purità across the piazza (tel. 0432-506-830). In Fall of the Angels, the plummeting cherubs look like children who have just been scolded. An Assumption, appropriately adorning the ceiling, is so light that it seems to draw the viewer right off the floor. To enter the oratory, rustle up a sacristan in the Duomo (but not on Sun), or try ringing the bell (mornings only).
Udine's largest collection of the artist's works adorns the Palazzo Patriarcale or Palazzo Arcivescovile (tel. 0432-25-003), just north of the Duomo on Piazza Patriarcato. This palace was once home to Udine's patriarchal bishops. One of the last (before the position was dissolved) was Dionisio Delfino (1699-1734), from a wealthy and influential Veneto family (they produced several Udine patriarchs; look for their "three dolphins on a blue field" coat of arms all over the palazzo). Delfino was the guy who brought Tiepolo to Udine to paint the second floor's airy frescoes, which depict Old Testament scenes full of familiar biblical characters wearing fashionable 18th-century clothing. The most impressive room is the narrow Galleria degli Ospiti, though the balustraded Biblioteca (library) and double-decker Sala del Trono (Throne Room) are also notable. The Sala del Trono is plastered with portraits of the patriarchs, many redone by Tiepolo. Dionisio is the one on the bottom at the far left of the window wall. The palazzo, which also houses the Duomo's Museo Diocesano on the first floor containing Friuliana-School wood statues spanning the 13th to 18th centuries, is open Wednesday to Sunday 10am to noon and 3:30 to 6:30pm. Admission is 5€ for adults and 3€ for children under 10.
One more museum here deserves a visit, the Galleria d'Arte Moderna (tel. 0432-295-891), on the other side of the city on Piazza Diacono (from Piazza della Libertà, follow Via Mazzini and Via Anton Morro north to the edge of the old center). Here you will be shaken out of the reverie induced by Tiepolo's airy views of miracles and the afterlife -- the galleries are filled with the works of 20th-century powerhouses such as Picasso and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as 1970s works by the likes of Lichtenstein and De Kooning. It's open Wednesday to Monday 10:30am to 5pm and until 7pm from May to September. Admission is 5€ for adults, 2.50€ for those younger than 18 and older than 65.
Festivals & Markets -- Udine d'Estate is the city's major festival, running from July to mid-September, with concerts and theatrical performances in churches and on Udine's beautiful piazze. An outdoor food market fills the atmospheric Piazza Matteotti daily from 8am to 1pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.